Although we have had one of the most savage downturns since the 1930s, an analysis of the crisis would conclude that we have still not met its full political or social effects. Indeed, the whole experience has been dampened by fiscal stimulus and an air of artificial normality. Economists still call for green shoots and implore the broken totem of consumer spending and house prices to merge, giving a new impetus to the economy. Salient voices say that the model is broken, but ‘debt and spend’ is only postponing the inevitable.
Riots that have broken out were concentrated on particular countries where the elected authorities were particularly mendacious or incompetent: Iceland, Latvia etc…but they have tended to peter out. Action has been displaced by apathy, indifference and a mood of anti-politics as social democracy has withered on the vine. Disagree with much of the Left’s analysis, but they can smell the rot as the European elections attested:
What we are seeing in Britain and throughout Europe is the last death throes of historical social democracy that emerged from the split in the world workers movement after the Russian revolution. This does not of course mean that we shall see the early demise of the parties that originated in social democracy, but the project – in the early phase socialism via successive reforms and then pro-working class reforms within the framework of capitalism – is all but dead, and in any case nowhere the majority or the leadership of parties like the French SP or the SPD in Germany.
The social democratic Left may no longer have the institutions to mobilise disaffected voters and workers. Their most recent travails are based upon the migration of the disaffected to marginal parties more in tune with their attitudes and goals: euroscepticism in Britain, radical right in the Low countries or Austria, hard left and poujadiste in France.
What is left out of the equation is that the social, cultural and political reaction to a depression can take two years or more to surface in a slow burn radicalisation. Political crisis did not start to hit till 1931 with the sovereignty crises. Are we in the early stages of a new migration to the extremes; awaiting that tipping point?